Tag Archives: Bob Polverari

340 OUT, FULL NASCAR IN

– Friday, September 15th, 1978 –

Next season will tell the story at Riverside Park Speedway as the track ventures into the land of bigger motors. The Park has never allowed engines larger than 340 cubic inches in 30 some years the Agawam oval has been in operation.

Riverside has been under the sanction of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) for the past three years after a long association with Harvey Tattersall and United Stock Car Racing Club. During the three year period with NASCAR the number of Modifieds signing into the pits each week has declined very drastically.

Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

NASCAR officials feel that Riverside’s 340 CI motor limit has been somewhat of a factor in the short turnout of cars while many Modified owners think the rising cost in auto racing is the main culprit. Both feelings are a definite factor in the shortage of cars. Many owners of the 340 powered Modifieds feel they’re not competitive when venturing out to other tracks.

Just a few seasons ago you could find upwards of 50 Modifieds on pit road fighting it out for the 20 or 24 car starting fields while over the past eight weeks the number of cars at Riverside hasn’t reached 30. The first leg of the “Triple Crown”, a 100 lapper, saw only 26 Modifieds sign in and only 22 took the green flag in what was supposed to be a 24 car starting field.

The Park is not the only track having a problem with a shortage of Modifieds. The recent NASCAR National Championship race held at Monadnock Speedway had only 23 cars sign in with only 22 starting instead of the 24 that were advertised and that same track has fielded as few as 14 cars for a couple of their regular Friday night shows. Stafford Motor Speedway has had as few as 31 Modifieds sign in trying for 26 car starting spots on a couple of occasions. Claremont Speedway has started as few as 17 Modifieds and only eight cars showed to run the feature at Hudson Speedway on August 27th, a “Thompson 300” qualifier. Also, the Danbury Fair Racearena which generally has between 40 and 50 Mods in the pits each week under a closed sanction, has of late had as few as 32 cars sign in. So, as you can see, it’s not only Riverside that has felt the crunch with small turnouts of Modifieds.

A few of the Stafford regulars should now be entering the Park scene or will they? Remember, only two Modified tracks run on Friday nights, Stafford and Monadnock, and the turnout of cars at these two tracks has been less than impressive at times this year. Add to this the fact that there are eight ovals drawing Modifieds on Saturday nights in New England and there’s a good chance that going full NASCAR rules at Riverside may not have been the answer. There will be several Park regulars heading for other tracks such as Plainville Stadium, Westboro Speedway and Claremont.

Geoff Bodine and Reggie Ruggiero motor down the front stretch to start the 1978 Riverside 500 at the Park. The packed grandstands at Riverside Park Speedway back then was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Geoff Bodine and Reggie Ruggiero motor down the front stretch to start the 1978 Riverside 500 at the Park. The packed grandstands at Riverside Park Speedway back then was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

Several long time Riverside competitors will head elsewhere to run because they feel they’ve supported Riverside for a lot of years and now have been cast aside like so much garbage. One owner spoke of meetings that were held by many of his fellow owners with the approval of Riverside’s NASCAR Racing Director, Ralph Ouderkirk. The meetings covered the 340 motor, a need for a gear rule and also some kind of tire regulation. A ballot passed out in the pits at the Park during August showed that 70% were in favor of the 340 and the gear and tire items saw 80% vote in favor of both. The owner in question stated, “Why the hell did waste our time holding meetings to try and lower the cost of racing when NASCAR and the Park were going to do what they wanted anyway?” He also added, “One owner came to Agawam all the way from West Haven on a week night and for what?

The main cause for the shortage of Modifieds in New England is money. Racing has become very expensive over the last few years and during that time many cars have been parked. In the past five years tire costs have risen and some racing parts have doubled in price.

Two cars that won’t return for 1979 are the Czarnecki Brothers #20 Vega driven by Bob Polverari and Earl Reynolds #71 Bobcat wheeled by Bob Stefanik. Both car owners cite money as the main reason they won’t return next season.

Polverari also wheels his own #711 Vega at Stafford, and Jack Gelgut, owner of the #65 Pinto that runs at numerous tracks, both feel it’s almost impossible to lower the cost of racing.

Bobby Stefanik and car owner Earl Reynolds won plenty in 1977 & '78 and Riverside Park in their Richie Evans Chassis, Bobcat bodied Modified. Howie Hodge photo.
Bobby Stefanik and car owner Earl Reynolds won plenty in at Riverside Park in their Richie Evans Chassis, Bobcat bodied Modified. But the team folded at the the end of the ’78 season. Howie Hodge photo.

Polverari stated, “Auto racing today is an expensive sport just like yachting.” He also added, “If you can’t afford a Modified any longer and want to stay in racing then you best think about dropping to a lower more economical class.

Gelgut said, “A head rule would lower cost a great deal, but then how are you going to police it without tearing the heads off of every car in the pits each and every week?

Everyone knows there are rules, such as the 340 CI motor limit that aren’t being policed or enforced now.

It seems as though the 340 engine has been one of the biggest expenses for its car owner. The number of 340’s blown this season by Riverside competitors, but not necessarily at the Park, is in excess of twenty five. If you average that out at a conservative $4,000 per engine, that’s a cool $100,000 in scrap metal. One driver-owner, Don Desrocher, has exploded four this season at the Park. The entire season’s purse at Riverside doesn’t reach the hundred thou mark and many feel that if Riverside would boost its payoff it could help to alleviate some of the cost.

If you average out a Saturday night crowd at Riverside Park at around 4,000 fans and then estimate a $2 per head average it would come to $8,000 and now let’s figure that an average of $1 is spent per fan at the beer stand and snack bars, you would then have a total of $12,000 spent by Park enthusiasts for a regular 50 lap show. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. The Riverside payoff for a 50 lap show is $4,900 and then add on a $1,500 sanction fee paid to NASCAR for that weeks show plus let’s figure $1,000 for employees that night and you will have a grand total of $7,400 paid out. Subtract the latter from the former and you will have an approximate profit of $4,500. Not bad for a nights work and please remember that all figures are estimated. Do you think an extra thousand or two could be thrown into the purse?

One owner told us that NASCAR is definitely structured towards the man who has a lot of money to spend on building his car and maintaining his equipment.

A survey, taken on August 26th, involving 100 Riverside fans showed they were in favor of the full NASCAR rules by a vote of 73-27.

So 1979 will show whether Riverside is right in the decision, whether NASCAR is good for Riverside, and whether the fans choice is right.

Till next week; “NERFers Abide, the Big 55!”

Advertisements

NASCAR North Series Nears 400 Grand With Big Molson Bucks

–  FRIDAY, MARCH 14th, 1980 – PAGE 9  –

Nascar-North

Tom “Mr. NASCAR North” Curley has been working feverishly since the close of the 1979 season in hopes of increasing the monetary rewards for the already prosperous NASCAR North Tour.

Curley’s relentless pursuit for hunting down big dollar sponsors for his very popular year-old Late Model Sportsman series has again paid off with the signing of a lucrative multi-year agreement with Molson Breweries of Canada, Ltd.

Last year’s twenty-seven race tour paid out in excess of $270,000 including $40,000 point fund, but with increased monies from Molson, this season’s total series dollars has already topped the $370,000 mark for the twenty-six events scheduled so far. A point fund of $65,000 is included in the total money posted to date.

Beaver-DragonThe 1980 point fund will be paid over a newly created three-leg program much like the one operated within the Grand National ranks. The first two-legs, ending in June and August respectively, will each pay a total of $10,000 in point fund monies while the final leg will pay the remaining $45,000 for the overall point standings with the champion picking up a cool ten grand.

The final schedule is expected to reach at least thirty events which would put the posted awards over $400,000 with the point fund over $70,000. Several companies, other than Molson, have already pumped many dollars into the series including Champion Spark Plug, McCreary Tires, the STP Corp and Bell Helmets. Some thirty-eight companies have been contacted by Curley in hopes of increasing the rewards for the Tour including the likes of Hurst, Castrol and Hawaiian Tropics.

Curley has got STP of Canada back into racing, after a seven-year absence, to take over the Canadian Challenge Series sponsored by Molson last season. The $3,000 put up by STP will go to the top Canadian finishers on the Tour.

With Molson being the big dollar sponsor of the series for the next few years, the NASCAR North Tour will now become known as the NASCAR North Molson Circuit.

McCreary will once again furnish the official tire for the series and the North Tour’s success with a tire rule in ’79 has caused both Hickory [NC] Speedway and Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, VA to adopt a track tire rule.

NASCAR North competitors will be happy about one thing disclosed by Curley, in a recent discussion with the Ol’ Nerf, that being a twenty percent purse increase over last year which will definitely benefit the guys finishing from fifth on back.

Beaver Dragon along with his brother Bobby were two of the toughest competitors on Tom Curley's NASCAR North Tour. Howie Hodge photo.
Beaver Dragon along with his brother Bobby were two of the toughest competitors on Tom Curley’s NASCAR North Tour. Howie Hodge photo from 1979.

With the purse increase comes word that several cars are either being built of purchased for the upcoming season including a new Emanuel Zervakis machine for last year’s NASCAR North Tour Champion, Beaver Dragon, which was originally destined for Darrell Waltrip. 1977 Nascar North Rookie of the Year, Mike Barry will also pilot a new Zervakis car while popular Pete Silva has purchased a complete Banjo Mathews set up including car, motors and hauler. Top runner Robbie Crouch is building two cars for himself which will feature some new Late Model innovations.

Jean Paul Cabana will once again return to the Late Model wars in the car which was driven last year by Tom Rosati. Sophomore driver Tim Dykeman has purchased last year’s Wood Brothers short track Grand National machine driven by Neil Bonnet while Phil Gerbode has obtained the car campaigned by Butch Lindley in ’79.

Hector LeClair, last year’s Tour runner up, has had his 1979 car completely reworked by Howe Chassis in hopes of an all out assault on the series crown in ’80.

So, even before the second year of operation, the Curley run Tour has become the highest paying single division stock car series in the Northeast and Southern Canada.

Curley is in the same class as the National Dirt Racing Association’s Robert Smawley, Ted Johnson of the World of Outlaws and D.I.R.T. of Central New York’s Glenn Donnelly.

There are some people in the Northeast who dislike the way Curley and NASCAR North operates, but there are also individuals I’ve talked to who do not like Smawley, or Donnelly as I’m sure there are people who don’t especially care for Johnson. A couple of years ago I didn’t like Geoff Bodine, but you can’t shoot down the fact that he was successful nor can you knock the success of Curley, Smawley, Johnson or Donnelly because after all, success is the name of the game, isn’t it?

NERF’ers Nibblets *** I Wonder Where the Yellow Went?” was the heading over this column a couple of weeks ago with the ensuing story relating to the finishing of races under the yellow flag by NASCAR. Well I’m sure this writer’s blasting of that practice had nothing to do with it, but USAC has just announced that all of their sanctioned Stock Car events will now finish under the green starting with this past weekend’s “Texas 250” at the Texas World Speedway in College Station. The new rule is aimed at giving the race fan a guaranteed green flag finish. All USAC Stock Car races will finish under green flag conditions, with races on speedways of at least 1.5 miles in length requiring at least the final two laps completed under green and races on shorter tracks requiring at least the final three laps under green. This will end the disappointing single-file yellow flag finishes which in the past have often ruined fantastic races. Hats off to USAC for their move in alleviating this problem and now if NASCAR would only get off its duff and follow suit…..

Polverari-New-CarStopped over to see the new Bob Polverari Chevette bodied No. 711 Modified and it is one beautiful lookin’ machine which will definitely put it in the runnin’ for best appearing Modified at Martinsville [VA] Speedway this weekend. The car carries Polverari’s usual white paint job and Dave Bendtson of Springfield, Mass. has done some fantastic pin striping and lettering work on the machine while almost everything that isn’t painted or lettered has been chromed by West Springfield’s Jim Steup. If the new 711 runs as good as it looks, then competitors of the three-time Riverside Park Speedway champion had better watch out…..

Bob Polverari's 1980 Chevette bodied Modified was a new Chassis Dynamics built Mod and was most definitely a looker. Pictured here at Stafford Motor Speedway. Peter Montano photo.
Bob Polverari’s 1980 Chevette bodied Modified was a new Chassis Dynamics built Mod and was most definitely a looker. Pictured here at Stafford Motor Speedway. Peter Montano photo.

While on the subject of Polverari, I forgot to mention his early January deer hunting trip. Word has it that this was a very successful one a he was spotted several times in the West Springfield area, in his Cadillac Eldorado, with Donner or Blitzen or was it Rudolph strung across the hood of the car. Seems as though this is the first time the deer hunter, or is that dear hunter, has returned with anything other than nothing at all. I understand he’s so happy about his success that next year he’s goin’ huntin’ for John Darveau’s dancing elephants. How about it Dear Hunter?…..

New England Mini Modified Association president Dan Meservey told Ol’ Nerf recently that as many as forty cars are expected for Thompson Speedway’s ICEBREAKER ’80 on March 29th and 30th including the cars of 1979 Pocono champion Randy Snyder of Bryan, OH; Florida Speed Week’s champ Bob Flagg of Toledo, Ohio; Livonia, Michigan’s Dick Meyers, Bob Hackle of Albany, NY and Joe Santiago from Brentwood, L.I. plus the usual line-up of NEMMA stars such as Meservey, Darrell Smith, Rick Hussex, Randy Slack, Jim Marceline, Pete Schluter and Billy Smith. Don’t miss this great turnout of Mini-Mods…..

Auto racing recently suffered another sad day as former Grand National star Lee Roy Yarbrough, a fourteen-time winner on the tour, was committed to a mental institution in Florida after a Jacksonville judge found him incompetent to stand trial for the murder of his mother last month. The 43-year-old ex-driver had his best year in G.N. racing in 1969 when he won seven super-speedway events including the Daytona 500…..

Da Champ, Rene Charland is still lookin’ fer his Olympic hat which was stolen off his head at New Smyrna [FLA] Speedway during Speed Week’s while he was perched precariously upon the throne. Ya might say he got caught with his pants down. Tsk, tsk…..

Till next time, “Catch you later and don’t forget, Roast the Rat Night’ to benefit the NARAC Fund.

Missing for 1979, Will Return in 1980

– FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20TH, 1978 –

Missing for ’79, Will Return in ’80

New England racing fans will miss seeing one of the premier Modified chauffeurs and his very popular car come 1979.

Yes. The rumor that has been floating around the Northeastern racing scene since the season ended at Stafford Motor Speedway is true. 

1978. Bob Polverari in his new 711 Racing Team Vega bodied Modified he campaigned at Stafford Motor Speedway. The beautiful machine was a featured spread in Stock Car Racing Magazine. Andy Boright Collection - John Driscoll Photo.
Bob Polverari in his new 711 Racing Team Vega bodied Modified awaiting competition at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1978. The beautiful machine was a featured spread in Stock Car Racing Magazine. Andy Boright Collection – John Driscoll Photo.

Bob Polverari and his crew have decided to pack up their 711 racing operation for the coming year.

The following is a conversation that I had with the three time Riverside Park Speedway Champion a week or so ago.

Nerf: Is it true that you have decided to halt all 711 racing action for 1979?

Bob Polverari: Yes!

Nerf: Did your crew have a voice in this move?

Bob: We’d been thinking of this more over for a couple of years.

Nerf: Did your family have any bearing on this decision?

Bob: I wanted to spend more time doing some of the things we haven’t been able to do in the last few years.

Nerf: Why is the 711 Racing Team taking a year off?

Bob: Being so involved over the past years hasn’t really given us the time to do some of the things we like such as hunting, fishing or just spending some time traveling around.

Nerf: Has your poor showing at Stafford this season brought about this decision?

Bob: Not really.

Nerf: Are you disappointed with your Stafford performance this year?

Bob: No! Every week we headed for the track, we were positive we could win.

Nerf: Were you pleased with the season you had at Riverside Park in the Czarnecki Brothers #20? 

Bob: Yes! With a break or two we could have won another title, but of course with a break or two there’s a couple others who could have won it all.

Nerf: What do you think of Stan Greger, the new Riverside Park Champion?

Bob: He did a super job all season and both he and his car owner, Bill Simons, deserve the title. They don’t have a lot of bucks, but they made them count.

Nerf: Can you tell me what the season has cost you? 

Bob: With the new car, expenses and all, I would estimate approximately $20,000. We’ve taken in around $2,500, sold about $6,000 in equipment since Stafford closed and if we can sell what we have left, we should come out on the plus side for this year.

Late 1978 at Stafford Speedway after Polverari and the 711 Racing Team sat their beautiful new 711 Vega and brought out the old Modified to finish out the season. Howie Hodge Photo.
Late 1978 at Stafford Speedway after Polverari and the 711 Racing Team parked their beautiful new 711 Vega and brought out the old Modified to finish out the season. Howie Hodge Photo.

Nerf: Is the fact that you parked the new 711 before the photo expose came out in Stock Car Racing Magazine been embarrassing to you?

Bob: No! We’ve never been embarrassed about anything the 711 has done. We always try as hard as we can, the best we can and that’s all that anyone can ask.

Nerf: What were some of the problems with the new 711? 

Bob: We had motor problems all season and spent so much time on engines that we couldn’t sort out other things in the car. We also lost a very valuable crew member that definitely hurt us.

Nerf: What are your plans for 1979 as far as auto racing goes?

Bob: We plan to build two identical chassis and two as close to identical motors as possible for our 1980 return.

Nerf: Is it true that the 711 Racing Team plans to spend some time with Maynard Troyer and Jack Tant in hopes of getting some insight on chassis and motors?

Bob: We plan on spending as much time we can with as many people as we can. We’ll also be asking as many questions as possible.

Polverari #711 lines up for heats at Riverside Park Speedway in 1977. The same year he won his 3rd consecutive track championship. Jared Echo Photo.
Polverari 711 lines up for heats at Riverside Park Speedway in 1977. The same year he won his 3rd consecutive track championship. Jared Echo Photo.

Nerf: We know you’ll be returning in 1980, but will you return to both Riverside Park and Stafford or if one, which will it be?

Bob: Being they’ve changed the motor rule at the Park, we’d like to run both Stafford and Riverside. If we can’t find time to run both tracks, then we’ll only compete on Friday nights.

Nerf: Will you have the same crew?

Bob: It’ll be primarily the same crew with a couple additional members.

Nerf: I would like to clear up another rumor now. What was the real reason you left Riverside Park with the 711 this past season?

Bob: We were only able to run one night a week and after running Martinsville Speedway and Stafford, we decided to try our luck on the bigger half-mile track.

Nerf: Are you sure it wasn’t the Riverside officials or in particular, John Tallini?

Bob: No! We’ve been upset with the officials before, but again, who hasn’t? The officials were definitely not our reason for leaving Riverside.

Nerf: Will you be racing anymore this year?

Bob: Yes! We’ll be at Martinsville for the Cardinal 500 on October 29th.

We concluded our conversation with Polverari at this point.

Reggie Ruggeiro #2 ahead of Geoff Bodine #1 and Bob Polverari #3 during the running of the 1978 Riverside 500 at Riverside Park Speedway. Reggie was teamed with Richie Evans. Bodine was teamed with Bob Stefanik. Polverari was teamed with Jerry Cook. Cook broke early forcing Polverari to drive 488 straight laps to win his fourth Riverside 500 victory. Mario Fiore Collection.
Reggie Ruggiero #2 ahead of Geoff Bodine #1 and Bob Polverari #3 during the running of the 1978 Riverside 500 at Riverside Park Speedway. Reggie was teamed with Richie Evans. Bodine was teamed with Bob Stefanik. Polverari was teamed with Jerry Cook. Cook broke early forcing Polverari to drive 488 straight laps to win his fourth Riverside 500 victory. Mario Fiore Collection.

Polverari took track titles at Riverside Park Speedway in 1975-76-77 plus he finished third in 1974 and came home second this year behind Stan Greger. Among his accomplishments are four Riverside Park 500 crowns, captured in 1971-75-76 and again this year. Add to this a second place finish in the 1977 Spring Sizzler behind Maynard Troyer and you know you have a very talented driver.

The 6’1” driver of the beautiful 711 Vega, sponsored by Perry Auto Supply in West Springfield, Mass., is looked upon by his fellow competitors as a super wheel man and a first rate gentleman on or off the track.

The men who have formed one of the finest and best looking crews around are; Barry Kuhnell (Crew chief), Don Merriman and Ed Foley. These are the guys that spend hours every week in between racing programs to prepare the 711 for the following racing show and then work their tails off on the night of the race.

So, to the fans we say; this dedicated driver, crew and car haven’t vacated the racing scene. They’ve just taken a year off to regroup for a mad charge in 1980. That being a challenge for a duel championship at Stafford and Riverside Park. As 1978 was the “Year of Bodine”, could it be that 1980 might be the “Year of Polverari”? Who knows! Stick around and you’ll find out.

Until next week; “NERF’ers Abide the Big 55”

*     *     *

Postscript

What’s not to say about a driver who was able to step away repeatedly from the sport he loves over his career only to return each time in grand fashion.. He went on to become a 5 Time Riverside Park Speedway Modified Champion 1975, ’76, ’77, ’82, and ’90. Won 4 Riverside 500’s, including the last one in 1978 by driving 488 straight laps to grab the checkered after his team mate, 6 time National Modified Champion, Jerry Cook broke 11 laps into the race.

As a life long Polverari fan since the age of six, I can name some of the most memorable races that had me cheering on the 711 driver and worn down afterwards.. Some were wins where others may not have been victories, but were just plain awesome performances that showed how clean, smooth, consistent and competitive of a driver Bob truly was.

In 1980, Bob was in a battle for the track title with Richie Evans. The title came down to the final race in Riverside Park Speedway’s triple crown. The Riverside 200. The race came down to Richie and Bob. For laps on end they battled. Richie down low, Bob up high, vice versa. They swapped the lead a few times and Richie eventually got by for good when the two were side by side coming into lapped traffic.  The lapped car pinched Richie down farther causing the National Champion to run all four tires under the line between turns 3 and 4. He was forced and it was obvious. The officials saw that and did not penalize. The remaining laps it was Richie leading and Polverari behind. Richie went on to take the victory and the 1980 Riverside Park title.

After the event, this upset and extremely biased 10 year old fan went right to his favorite driver and asked; “Why didn’t you protest?  He had all four tires under the line. That  was illegal! You should be the champ!”

I will never forget his answer; “I don’t want to win that way. Nobody would. Richie wouldn’t do that to me. He won. He’s the champ.”

It showed character and more so to a 10 year old it taught me that although racing may be about winning, it was equally about winning the right way and losing gracefully. A true trait of a first class veteran champion.

Although Bob Polverari has had many victories and fine performances throughout his career (The Park, Stafford, and Thompson) his 1981 Spring Sizzler victory, two years removed from his hiatus in 1979, is the most discussed and memorable finishes among the Modified faithful.

His team unveiled a different color scheme on a Plymouth  TC3  bodied Modified built by Chassis Dynamics for it’s first weekend of competition at the Sizzler set the stage. The black and gold Modified was sleek, clean and brilliant looking. Most importantly it was fast right out of the box.

Polverari's famed #711 from 1981 that took him to Spring Sizzler victory lane. A race which has been called the most exciting Spring Sizzler ever. Howie Hodge Photo.
Polverari’s famed 711 in 1981 that took him to Spring Sizzler victory lane. A race which has been called the most exciting Spring Sizzler ever. Howie Hodge Photo.

In 1977 Polverari shocked many when he finished on the podium of the Sizzler as a rookie at Stafford behind winner Maynard Troyer and ahead of Richie Evans who finished 3rd. So as fate would have it, what many fans believe to be his greatest performance on the biggest stage outside of Bob’s home track of Riverside Park, came down to two battles in the ’81 Sizzler, one with Maynard Troyer and the other with Richie Evans..

The finish of the race was as they say; “The stuff of legends”.

Lifelong fan, creator of the Bring Back Riverside Park & Speedway facebook page, and organizer of this past year’s well received Riverside Park Speedway reunion, held during a Springfield Falcon’s hockey game, summed up what it means to be a Bob Polverari fan; “It meant cheering on a man that truly appreciated his fans just as much as we appreciated watching his skill on the track. The meaning of class act on the track and in life. I’ve had guys I’ve cheered on since he retired but none I could get behind like that #711.

And if you ask every Bob Polverari fan, their answers would be extremely similar, mine included.

Have a great racing weekend everyone! All the best!

– Jared

I’m Not Sayin’, I’m Just Sayin’ and Good Memories

RELOADED

It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks since the publishing of my last column, “Money and the Underdog”.  Rain may have postponed and cancelled quite a bit of racing last weekend, but Memorial Day weekend’s televised events did not disappoint for this auto racing fan.  It was far better than any retired basketball star showing up to my birthday party that’s for sure.

I’ve been saying for the last month or so that Kurt Busch’s attempt at the double is a pretty significant deal.  Sunday it played out flawlessly for the first true fendered driver to attempt the 500 since 1972. Placing 6th in the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 and taking Rookie of the Year honors along with a $423,889.00 check for his efforts says plenty from behind the wheel.  Sure his double ended early at Charlotte, but love him or hate him you can’t deny Busch proved he is one talented driver.  Well done.

We’re just two weeks away from the 4th annual SBM 125 at the very racy Star Speedway quarter mile in Epping, NH..  Kevin Rice, Jim Schaefer, and their fellow organizers are getting everything in line for the much anticipated second jewel in the triple crown of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series on Saturday, June 14th.  If you haven’t seen the SBM video promo produced by Bobby Webber’s 14 year old son Timmy, you should check it out.  It’s been shared by James Schaefer, the Tri-Track Open Modified Series, and on the NERF’ers Corner RELOADED facebook page.  Stop by either of those and give the young Mr. Webber some kudos.  Timmy Webber, you did a fantastic job!

A rabid blogger names a handful of people involved in the sport and proceeds to throw them under the bus with cries of being a victim of bullying.  When the one doing the crying and making accusations has been guilty of the same claims he is crying victim about, it falls flat.  What were the hopes behind this pathetic smoke and mirrors article other than an attempt to get those reprimanded in some way shape or form by their peers, employers or sanctioning bodies? Holding others to standards that one does not hold themselves to while throwing accusations and pointing the finger is absolutely pathetic.  So call it for what it is, Karma.  K-A-R-M-A.. You reap what you sew.  What was the line from back in March?  “You can’t have it both ways”?

The 3/8th mile clay oval of Thunder Mountain Speedway, located in Center Lisle, NY, held a $5,100.00 to win Open Dirt Modified event.  “Lightening on the Mountain”.  It was the second event for the National Dirt Racing League’s Short Track Super Series Fueled By VP.  Lightening on the Mountain, held Tuesday, May 17th had $31,813 in purse money on the line.  The event paid $500 just to take the green. 73 of dirt Modified’s finest showed up to qualify.  32 Modifieds made up the starting field which meant 41 Modifieds did not qualify.  Among those notables not making the field were Brett Hearn, Alan “AJ Slideways” Johnson, and Dale Planck. The event was won by dirt ace Matt Sheppard.  The huge turn out speaks volumes about the strength of the dirt Modified division.

Jerry Cook at Stafford in 1976, the year of his 5th NASCAR National Modified Championship. Howie Hodge photo.
Jerry Cook at Stafford in 1976, a year where Cook captured his 5th NASCAR National Modified Championship. Howie Hodge photo.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame have found their new class of inductees.  6 Time NASCAR National Modified Champion, Jerry Cook was unfortunately passed over yet again.  Cook is a 6 time title holder of what was a National Championship.  Cook battled door handle to door handle for years against Hall of Famer Richie Evans and chased each other up and down the east coast to collect those valuable NASCAR National

Mike Stefanik's Busch Grand National North and NASCAR Modified machines get prepped for battle at Nazareth in 1997. Howie Hodge photo.
Mike Stefanik’s Busch Grand National North and NASCAR Modified Tour machines get prepped for battle at Nazareth in 1997. Howie Hodge photo.

Modified Championship points.   First year nominee, Mike Stefanik also was passed over.  Mike’s 7 NASCAR Modified Tour titles and 2 Busch Grand National North titles are more than enough to get him in.  What more can anyone say about a driver who not only won multiple championships in two of NASCAR’s touring series, let alone earning titles for both series in the same year, not once, but in consecutive years, 1997 and 1998?  That my friends is the definition of a weekend warrior at the top of his game.  In my personal opinion, these guys both are more deserving of the honor than past inductees Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett, who each have 1 Cup title in 1989 and 1999 respectively.  No disrespect towards those two former Cup champions.  I am admittedly very biased on this one can’t you tell?

A Flood of Memorial Day Weekend Memories.

On the morning of Friday, May 25th, 2012 my wife, our daughter, a great friend of ours and myself walked into the Stafford Motor Speedway office and were told to go straight to the infield and take as much time as we needed.

Bob Polverari and his famous 711. Had a ton of photos of his Mods back in the day thanks to Mary. Howie Hodge photo.
Bob Polverari and his famous 711. I had a ton of photos of his Mods back in the day thanks to Mary. Howie Hodge photo.

We walked through the gates and I glanced over to the left where on so many a Friday evening, before the races or during intermission, I would bug Mary Hodge to death and enjoy some fun and good natured ribbing with Kevin and Howie.  Pointing at the booth I shared a memory with our daughter;  “I used to take a dollar over to that booth almost every Friday and I’d walk up to the side door.  I’d talk and talk to the Hodges, then hand Mary a dollar for a grab bag of 3 photos and Mary would usually hand me 2 or 3.  You know, I never really wondered how there just happened to be a couple photos in there of my favorite driver, Bob Polverari.  I thought it was luck, but now I know different.”

Further on down the midway, where it slopes down hill, memories of Seymour and Geoff Bodine each carrying newspaper sacks filled with lollipops as they both campaigned for mayor of Stafford Speedway came rushing back.  A little farther down and looking over towards the right was the spot by the fence I could be found as a youngster back in the day waiting for Bob Polverari to walk to the front of his hauler on the other side of the fence.  Many of the drivers always found time to meet and talk with the fans during prepping and intermission and Bob was always one of those guys.

Frank Sgambato and Chris Hopkins man Stafford's flag stand back in the day. Howie Hodge photo.
Frank Sgambato (left)  and Chris Hopkins (right) man Stafford’s flag stand back in 1982. Howie Hodge photo.

We walked down to the flagstand for which many a time back in the day Frank Sgambato with his “comb the hair” around the head flag wave and good friend of my parents, Chris Hopkins commanded the race track.

The same flagstand the undisputed mayor of Stafford Motor Speedway, Seymour the Clown climbed and proceeded to wave flag after flag as Mike Joy played along defining to the crowd what each flag was for.  After each explanation Seymour would toss the flag over his shoulder onto the track as the crowd would let out laughs.  When Seymour got to the black flag, oh boy!

Seymour atop the front stretch fence at Stafford doing what he did best, entertain. Howie Hodge photo.
Seymour atop the front stretch fence doing what he did best, entertain the thousands of fans. Howie Hodge photo.

We hopped over the wall and onto the start finish line in which legends flew over and new ones are still made thankfully.  I stopped for a moment to soak it all in, turning around to look up at the press box where I spent many nights sitting next to Brother Pat Evans and laughing it up.

This was the place my father and I enjoyed so many races together.  Besides the now long passed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass, this was home.  Man he loved this track and that’s why it felt so right with what we were about to do.

We walked into the infield and picked a nice grassy spot.  I pulled the container from the box and opened the lid.  I said some heartfelt words.  Then a memory hit me that made me crack up through the tears and I shared it with those with me; “Years ago when Dad was still around he said that when he died he wanted to be mixed with the speedy dry and have the track crew spread him around with it during the night’s events.”

All of us chuckled and I then proceeded to spread my father’s ashes in the green grass.  Robert Echo was finally home for good.

Brother Pat Evans was always fun to sit with in the Stafford press box. Good times. Howie Hodge photo.
Brother Pat Evans was always fun to sit with in the Stafford press box. A true friend to the sport and dearly missed. Howie Hodge photo.

That evening we attended the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 under threatening skies and rain all around us.

Frank and Martin, long time family friends, awaited us in the stands.  When we got to their seats Frank said that as he watched us walk through the gates the cloud hanging over the speedway broke open enough to allow light to shine down onto the infield of the track.  With what took place that morning, to us it was just  another sign that my father was there with us.

The skies opened up with a light shower interrupting the Whelen Modified Tour’s time trials.  One of my very best friends, John turned around and remarked that my father might have a little something to do with it; “Bob always hated time trials.  He must have put an order in for rain so he could get watered in.”

The whole group of us laughed as that was the very type of humor my father had and would have appreciated.  Immediately after the shower the sun shined through for a spell and all in attendance witnessed a double rainbow in the direction of the 3rd and 4th turns.

Howie Hodge, myself, and my daughter pose for Mary to capture some more memories. Mary Hodge photo.
Howie Hodge, myself, and my daughter pose for Mary to capture some more memories. Mary Hodge photo.

During intermission my wife, our daughter and myself met up with Howie and Mary Hodge at the driver’s autograph session.  Seeing those two made this trip to Stafford feel a bit like all those years of attending with my father.  Again, it felt right.

Our daughter Madison soaking in the knowledge. Howie Hodge photo.
Our daughter Madison soaking in the knowledge and taking in the speedway her grandfather once attended. Howie Hodge photo.

At times that Friday night our daughter, who for the last couple of years would ask what her grandfather and I did together at her age, was understandably filled with emotion.  She never met him, but heard endless stories about him through family and friends.  Being on the same ground that myself and her grandfather used to frequent and sharing it with her after all these years had me feeling the same too.  She was like a sponge, soaking up the wall of champions banner that draped over the back of a concession stand for the pit area.  Howie managed to snap a shot of her studying it.  It’s a shot her mother and I will forever treasure.

Doug Coby crosses the line for the 2012 TSI Harley-Davidson 125. Howie Hodge photo.
Doug Coby crosses the line for the 2012 TSI Harley-Davidson 125. Howie Hodge photo.

The rest of the night’s events went on without a hitch.  Bobby Santos III had dominated the event from the start until the closing laps.  Doug Coby who charged to the front, after making a late race pit stop, took the top spot away and a well deserved victory as a light rain started to fall.

These are the memories that filled my Memorial Day.  I hope your memories were just as wonderful and all of you made some more this past weekend as well.  Until next week’s republishing of another classic NERF’ers Corner by Bob Echo, all the best!  Stay safe and enjoy the racing wherever you may attend!